BOOK ONE: THE COMING OF THE MARTIANS
CHAPTER 17: THE "THUNDER CHILD"
The steam hung upon the water for many minutes, hiding
the third Martian and the coast altogether. And all this time
the boat was paddling steadily out to sea and away from the
fight; and when at last the confusion cleared, the drifting
bank of black vapour intervened, and nothing of the
THUNDER CHILD could be made out, nor could the third
Martian be seen. But the ironclads to seaward were now
quite close and standing in towards shore past the steamboat.
The little vessel continued to beat its way seaward, and
the ironclads receded slowly towards the coast, which was
hidden still by a marbled bank of vapour, part steam, part
black gas, eddying and combining in the strangest way. The
fleet of refugees was scattering to the northeast; several
smacks were sailing between the ironclads and the steamboat.
After a time, and before they reached the sinking cloud bank,
the warships turned northward, and then abruptly went
about and passed into the thickening haze of evening southward. The coast grew faint, and at last indistinguishable amid
the low banks of clouds that were gathering about the
Then suddenly out of the golden haze of the sunset came
the vibration of guns, and a form of black shadows moving.
Everyone struggled to the rail of the steamer and peered into
the blinding furnace of the west, but nothing was to be distinguished clearly. A mass of smoke rose slanting and barred
the face of the sun. The steamboat throbbed on its way
through an interminable suspense.
The sun sank into grey clouds, the sky flushed and darkened, the evening star trembled into sight. It was deep
twilight when the captain cried out and pointed. My brother
strained his eyes. Something rushed up into the sky out of
the greyness--rushed slantingly upward and very swiftly
into the luminous clearness above the clouds in the western
sky; something flat and broad, and very large, that swept
round in a vast curve, grew smaller, sank slowly, and vanished again into the grey mystery of the night. And as it
flew it rained down darkness upon the land.